February 27, 2014

Fig Coconut Truffles

My husband inspired me to make this one. Sometimes he just walks into the kitchen, opens the pantry, takes a few figs, chops them up, and then takes a good amount of shredded coconut and starts munching them together :-). Looking at the way he was enjoying it I figured that the coconut and fig will make a good combo, so I decided to make an easy-to-grab snack with figs and coconut. I also added one more family favorite ingredient to the mix, and there you have the fig coconut truffles ! It might feel a little tricky to form the shape, but you can do it, with some patience. I just did not want to add more figs and make this any more sweeter. At the same time, I wanted to keep it simple and make it with only 3 ingredients, yes.., just 3 simple wholesome ingredients. They are full of energy, good fat, no added sugar, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, oil-free, nut-free and raw :-)

Ingredients:
  • Organic dried Turkish figs - 10
  • Oraganic dried shredded coconut - 2 1/2 cups
  • Oraganic raw cacao powder - 6 Tbs
Directions:
  • Chop figs into small chunks and add to food processor or blender to process and make sort of a paste out of them.
  • Add coconut and cacao little by little and pulse till everything binds together.
  • Transfer to a bowl and make small balls out of the mix. You will have to take some of the mix and press with your palms and then keep pressing as you role. 
  • Optionally coat with extra cacao powder or coconut.
  • Keep refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, so that the truffles keep firm. 
  • Makes around 30 small truffles.


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February 22, 2014

Raw Pad Thai Sauce

I am revisiting my sauce from Raw Pad Thai Salad. This sauce is made with almonds and coconut and flavored with lemon grass. I wanted to use hemp as a topping for my pad thai, so the sauce is made lighter compared to my older version.


Ingredients:
  • Raw almonds - a big handful
  • Shredded coconut - 2 Tbs
  • Lemon grass  -1 stalk 
  • Tamarind - 1 Tbs (tamarind seeds removed, not extract) 
  • Dates - 1-2 
  • Green chilly - 1-2 
  • Garlic  - 1-2 cloves
  • Ginger - 1 Tbs (chopped)
  • Apple cider vinegar - 1 Tbs 
  • Pink Himalayan salt - as per taste
Directions:
  • Soak almonds, tamarind and dates overnight or for a few hours. 
  • When ready to make the sauce, add the soaked ingredients to a blender jar. Add coconut, chopped garlic, ginger, lemon grass cut into big chunks, apple cider vinegar and salt.
  • Blend till nice and creamy.
  • Add to your noodles.
  • For a grain free, egg free and soy free version of Pad Thai as shown in the picture, I used steamed yam noodles along with some raw carrot noodles. I served it on steamed collard leaves and topped with raw hemp hearts, chopped almonds and chopped fresh cilantro. 
  • Serves 2.



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Raw Food Thursday

Gluten-Free Herb Bread

This can be recorded as my first successful gluten-free bread :-). Though none of us are gluten intolerant, we have been reading a lot about the adverse impacts that gluten can have on our health, especially on our gut. We have been trying to avoid the modern variety of wheat as much as possible and trying to replace it with more ancient wheat varieties like rye, kamut, spelt, freekeh, farro, etc. I also wanted to venture into completely gluten-free baking and see if we'd like it, taste wise and on our body.

I have been browsing thru a lot of gluten-free flour mix recipes and gluten-free bread recipes. One thing I have found very common in almost all of them is the over-use (if I could say that) of starch, be it potato starch or tapioca starch or corn starch. I had to rule out corn starch, as we pretty much have a ban on corn/soy products in my kitchen :-). Potato or tapioca starch, well, I am not convinced on the use of 1:1 ratio of four to starch. Is it even worth trying to make gluten-free by adding so much of starch? I will have to do more research on that anyway. For now, I have worked out something based on a recipe that I found at Glutenfreegodess. I had to play around with the recipe a lot since I am using homemade rice flour, which is made from soaked rice, the volume was way different from store bought version of flour. So, if you are going to try this version, please make sure to use homemade rice flour.




Ingredients:
  • Homemade brown rice flour * – 1 ½ cup 
  • Home ground millet flour ** – ¼ cup
  • Potato starch – ¼ cup
  • Arrowroot powder – 1 tsp
  • Sea salt – ½ tsp
  • Garlic – 2 cloves – minced
  • Green chilly – 2 minced
  • Dried oregano  - 1 tsp (fresh herbs works very well too)
  • Active dry yeast – 1 tsp
  • Lukewarm water - 1/2 cup
  • Coconut palm sugar – ½ tsp
  • EV olive oil – 2 Tbs
  • Raw honey – 1 Tbs
  • Raw apple cider vinegar – ½ tsp
  • Organic free-range egg – 1


Directions:
  • Whisk together all the flours, sea salt, garlic, and herbs in a mixing bowl.
  • In a small bowl, proof the yeast in warm water and sugar. 
  • When the yeast is puffy, pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and beaten egg.
  • Stir to combine. Do NOT knead like wheat bread dough. The dough will be more like a cake batter.
  • Scoop the dough into a 6-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Slightly tap it on  countertop to sort of level the batter and to let any trapped air bubbles escape. 
  • Place the pan into the warm place (oven with warm setting maybe?) and allow it to rest and rise for about an hour.
  • Turn on the toaster oven to 375ºF. Bake until golden and firm- from 25 to 35 minutes. When you thump it, it should sound hollow.
  • Remove from the pan as soon as you can handle it, and cool on a wire rack. Slice with a sharp bread knife.
  • Makes one loaf.






Notes:
* Homemade brown rice flour - get my recipe here. Since I make it with rice soaked for 12-18 hours, the volume is much different from a store bought rice flour.

** Home ground millet flour is basically millet dry ground using VitaMix dry grinder and passed thru a flour sieve.

February 21, 2014

Roasted Taro & Quinoa Salad

What comes to my mind when I think about Taro a.k.a Chembu in my language? All the traditional South Indian dishes that we make with it like pulissery, olan, pulinkari, puzhukku and many more. So how about making a warm salad with taro? I said warm, so it is not a raw salad, I am going to cook it :-).

Taro is a nutrient rich root vegetable to include in your diet. It helps lower blood pressure, helps boost immunity with multiple vitamins, has low sodium, rich in fiber and has low glycemic index which is a plus too. Also, like some other types of yams, it is a natural source of phytoestrogen which helps to  balance the estrogen levels in women. Have mood swings or other PMS? Start eating some taro ;-) 

So this salad is my way to include taro in my regular weekday lunch salads. I am using pan roasted taro along with some wilted kale and cooked quinoa.. yum




For the Salad:
  • Taro - 4 small
  • Quinoa - 1 cup (Soaked overnight or 6-8 hours) 
  • Red onion - 1 
  • Green chilly - 3-4
  • Garlic - 3-4 cloves
  • Kale - 8-10 leaves (or any other greens or cabbage)
  • EV Coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

  • Cook quinoa with 11/2 cups of water. 
  • Meanwhile, wash and peel taro, slice into thin slices. 
  • Chop onion, garlic and green chilly.
  • Slice kale very thin. 
  • Heat coconut oil on medium heat, add turmeric powder and sauté onion, garlic and green chilly for a few seconds.
  • Add taro slices and give a rough stir to coat them with onion/garlic/chilly and turmeric. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes. You might want to reduce heat and keep checking every minute or so to make sure they do not burn.
  • Once taro is done, add sliced kale and cook till it is just wilted. Remove from flame. 
  • Add to a bowl, add cooked quinoa and mix well. 
  • Serve with the freshly whisked dressing. Enjoy! 
  • This serves 3-4




Dressing:

  • EV olive oil - 3 Tbs 
  • Lemon juice - from one lemon
  • Sea salt and pepper - as per taste - freshly ground
  • Raw hemp hearts - 3 Tbs

  • Whisk everything together. 

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February 20, 2014

Quick Hemp Cashew Dip/Dressing

Though we got introduced to hemp about a year ago, it is only recently that we started enjoying it, so much that we are trying to use it as much as possible. And why not, it is so good for you, being one of the best sources for plant based protein, perfect omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and a good source of essential fatty acids, magnesium and much more..This  recipe is flexible to be used as a dip or as a salad dressing, a perfect replacement for a blue cheese dip. It can also be made completely raw and vegan by replacing the yogurt with the same amount of coconut milk, add a tablespoon of coconut kefir for your doze of pro-biotic.


  • Organic raw hemp hearts - 1/4 cup
  • Organic raw cashews - 1/4 cup (recommended soaking for a few hours)
  • Organic homemade yogurt - 1/4 cup
  • Red pearl onions - 2-3 
  • Garlic cloves - 1-2
  • Organic raw apple cider vinegar - 1 Tbs
  • Black pepper corns - a few
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • You may want to slice the onion and garlic and soak in apple cider vinegar for 30 minutes or so. I prefer it this way to reduce the stink from raw onion and garlic. 
  • Blend everything to a silky smooth dip.
  • Serve with fresh veggies, home made pita or as a salad dressing. 
  • This serves 2. 
  • Enjoy !!

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  •     Here is a salad with cooked rye berries along with steamed long beans & wilted purple kale which will go very well with this dressing 


February 18, 2014

Savory Poha Granola (Mixture)

Looking for a quick'n'healthy mid-day snack which is wholesome, tasty and easy to put together? Here is one. This is a healthier variation of the 'spicy mixture' which is a common Indian savory snack. With pumpkin and sesame seeds, coconut and whole grain poha/aval, this is a wholesome mix of good carb, protein and good fat. This can also be made in big batches and served as breakfast, serve it as is, or like granola along with some homemade yogurt.





  • Poha/Aval/Beaten rice  - 3 cups (I used brown thin poha)
  • Cocconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt - 1/2 tsp
  • Asafoetida (hing/kayam) - a pinch
  • Carrom seeds (ajwain/omam) - 1 tsp (crushed coarsely)
  • Green chilly - 1 (Slit into half) 
  • Pumpkin seeds - 1/2 cup
  • Sesame seeds - 1/4 cup
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup



  • Heat coconut oil on a pan on medium heat. Add salt and all the spices and stir till the spices are mixed well with the oil, for about 2 minutes. You can reduce the heat to low and take care not to burn the spices.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and keep stirring till they are slightly toasted.
  • Add the sesame seeds and Poha and keep stirring so that everything is coated well on poha.
  • Once poha is crisp enough add shredded coconut and remove from flame.
  • Let it cool completely and store in an air tight container.


Wholesome Rye Roti Wraps w/ Roasted Eggplant & Acorn Squash Spread

Wraps are my son's favorite packed lunch item. These wraps are made with rye and sprouted spelt flour, which makes it suitable for everyone including people with slight gluten intolerance. Though I am using acorn squash spread and roasted eggplant, this can be made with other similar spreads (hummus maybe?) and other roasted, steamed or raw veggies. I make 2 or 3 smaller wraps for one serving instead of one gigantic wrap that you would find at a deli or a fresh food outlet. This way it is easier to handle and consume, and you can space them out if you do not want to eat them all at one time. As always, use organic ingredients as much as possible. 




Acorn Squash Spread
  • Acorn squash - 1/2 small
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup (Fresh or dry)
  • Green chilly - 2-3 (Adjust as per spice level)
  • Lemon juice - from a half a large lemon
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 tsp

  • Wash and peel squash (I leave some peel on, if the squash is small and tender green)
  • Remove the core and seeds  and slice into thin slices.
  • Heat a pan on medium heat and  drizzle coconut oil.
  • Spread the squash slices and roast for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Transfer to a blender along with other ingredients and blend to a spreadable consistency.

Rye Roti Wrap Dough
  • Rye flour - 1 cup
  • Sprouted spelt flour - 1 cup
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Carom seeds - 1 tsp (Ajwain/Omam)
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Filtered water - 3/4 cup
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 tsp

  • Powder cumin and carom seeds using a coffee/spice grinder.
  • Mix the flours, salt, spices and coconut oil.
  • Add water, starting from 1/2 cup and start mixing to make a dough drizzling more water as you go. Knead well for 5-10 minutes.
  • The dough should be elastic enough to roll into wraps.
  • Keep aside for 30 minutes. (If you want to make ahead, you can keep the dough refrigerated for couple of days wrapped in a plastic wrap or in a air tight container)

Roasted Eggplant
  • Eggplant - 1 medium italian eggplant
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs.
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
  • Sea salt as per taste
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 tsp

  • Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch slices and spread salt, turmeric powder and chilly powder on both sides.
  • Heat a pan on medium heat and  drizzle coconut oil.
  • Spread the eggplant slices and roast for 4-5 minutes flipping halfway thru, till eggplant is cooked enough.


Make the rotis:
  • Divide the dough into 9 -10 equal parts.
  • Roll each into a a circle of about 7-8 inches.
  • Heat a cast iron griddle, and put the rolled dough carefully on it.
  • Once you start seeing small bubbles, flip it.
  • Once you start seeing bubbles on the other side, flip it again.
  • Press on the edges using a wet towel or using a wooden spatula so that it puffs up.
  • Once it is almost puffed up flip it again and continue pressing to completely puff up.
  • Even if it does not puff up completely, that is okay, just cook nicely (without burning) on both sides :-)
  • Repeat for each roll.
  • Takes about 20 minutes for 9-10 rotis.




Make the wraps:
  • Spread 2-3  Tbs of the spread on the roti.
  • Keep 1-2 slices of eggplant and handful of any fresh vegetable (carrot slices, raw mango slices, baby spinach, cucumber slices) on one side of the wrap.
  • Start rolling up from that side.
  • Edges will be sort of sealed with the spread.



This is shared at:
Health and Soul Tuesday Blog Hop

February 17, 2014

Raspberry Filled White Chocolate Coconut Truffles

Looks like I have inspired my Valentine enough that he decided to surprise me with some wonderful raspberry filled white chocolate coconut truffles ♥♥♥ 

Here is his post and recipe...



I've always been a big foodie right from a young age, in fact was a glutton :-). Loved being near the kitchen, but never had the opportunity to cook as I was fortunate to have lived with great cooks, starting with my mom who was a wonderful cook, and then of course with my wife who took that to a different level. I have cooked while I was alone for short periods, but cooking for good cooks can be very challenging and I have not taken up the challenge unless really required. Usually B-Days and V-Days are days when I give her a break and take her out for a dinner or buy meaningful gifts (like a Vitamix :-)). This time for V-Day I thought of venturing into the kitchen to make an interesting dessert with white chocolate that I figured she'd like, and I know that my son likes white chocolate for sure, the same goes for me too. Besides, we are all big coconut fans. White chocolate goes well with coconut, and the raspberry filling gives the red color for the v-day association. The ingredients are wholesome and pure, and so was the intent, the results came out well too :-). No plans to venture into the kitchen anytime soon, except for the daily green juices and the occasional smoothies...


For the filling:

  • Raspberry - 1 cup (I used organic frozen)
  • Coconut water -1/2 cup 
  • Raw honey - 1/2 Tbs
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1/2 cup 

  • Add raspberries, coconut water and honey to a blender and make a smooth puree/sauce.
  • Take about 1/4 cup of this sauce and mix with the dried coconut. (you can reserve the remaining puree as a pancake syrup or use it to make a raspberry lassi maybe? ) 
  • Transfer the sauce to a bowl and add coconut and mix well and check the consistency.
  • Add more coconut if you need to make it into a binding consistency.
  • Make tiny balls out  of this filling. 
  • Keep refrigerated while you prepare the truffle mix.


White Chocolate Coconut Truffles:

  • Raw cacao butter - 1/4 cup (shavings)
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Raw honey - 2 Tbs
  • Coconut Oil (Virgin cold pressed) - 1 Tbs

  • Melt cacao butter over warm water. 
  • Add coconut, honey, coconut oil and melted cacao butter to a bowl and mix everything well
  • Check if everything hold together as rough dough.
  • You can add some more coconut oil for more binding.
  • Take a little of the cacao-coconut mix on one hand, keep a raspberry ball and cover with some more of the mix and try to roll nicely using your palms. It can get tricky, but then you are not making this for a pastry shop, you are just trying to impress your valentine, so this should be good enough ;-) 


February 15, 2014

Wild Mushroom Stew

Are mushrooms vegetarian or non-vegetarian? They definitely are not animals, but they are fungi. I know many vegetarians do not consume mushrooms since they don't consider them as vegetables. We love them especially the wild mushrooms, favorites in the family being chanterelle, shiitake and morel. Mushrooms are good source of B vitamins and minerals like Selenium, Ergothioneine, Copper etc. Beta-glucans found in many mushroom varieties have immunity-stimulating effects, builds resistance against allergies and aids in metabolism. All good reasons to include mushrooms in your diet regularly, especially during winter and allergy seasons.



This recipe was something new I made for my vegetarian Christmas breakfast to go with Moroccan Anise bread. This can be served with other types of bread or just as is like a soup. As always use as much as possible all organic ingredients.

Ingredients: 
  • Wild mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, chanterelle) - 1 lb (Sliced thin)
  • Portobello mushroom - 1 small (Chopped) 
  • Small yellow onion - 1 (chopped) 
  • Ginger - 1 Tbs (chopped)
  • Garlic - 2 cloves (sliced)
  • Fresh/dried herbs - rosemary/dill/thyme (fresh is recommended) 
  • Vegetable broth - 2 cups 
  • Nuts (almonds or hazelnuts) - a big handful (Soaked overnight) 
  • Cold pressed virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Directions:
  • Heat coconut oil and roast ginger and garlic. 
  • Grind, the soaked nuts along with roasted ginger and garlic and a cup of filtered water to get a fine, flavored nut milk. 
  • Into same pan, add chopped onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add mushroom slices and the herbs along with vegetable broth, salt and turmeric powder.
  • Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes on low-medium heat.
  • Add the nut milk and continue simmering on low-medium heat till all the flavors are mingled well and you have your desired consistency.
  • I serve it along with Moroccan Anise Bread. 
  • This can be served just as a soup as well.
  • Enjoy!


Moroccan Anise Bread

This is something I had made this past Christmas for our vegetarian Christmas breakfast. Interestingly this was on my mind ever since we watched an episode about Morocco on Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, just did not get around to make it till recently. It is a simple flat bread with very minimal ingredients and a straight forward recipe :-). I served it with a Wild mushroom stew, the recipe for which I will post soon.

Ingredients:
  • Organic whole wheat flour - 1 cup
  • Organic unbleached all purpose flour - 1 cup 
  • Sea salt - 1 tsp
  • Organic milk (lukewarm) - 1/2 cup 
  • Sesame seeds - 1 tsp
  • Anise seeds - 1 tsp (I substituted with carom seeds/ajwain/omam) 
Yeast starter:
  • Organic milk (lukewarm) 1/3 cup 
  • Organic raw sugar - 1/2 tsp
  • Yeast - 1 tsp 
Directions:
  • Place the warm milk in a small bowl, stir in the sugar and then mix in yeast, then set aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes, till frothy.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the two flours and salt. 
  • Crush anise seeds slightly between your palms and add that to the flour mixture. 
  • Add the yeast mixture and warm milk to make a dough.
  • Knead into a ball and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes, adding extra flour water as necessary to make an elastic dough.
  • Place on floured baking tray and press down with your hand to make round breads about 5-6 inches in diameter. (I just put the dough on a 6 inch cake pan so that I have nice round shape)
  • Cover with clean damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for about 2 hours, till it is doubled in size. 
  • It is ready to bake when the dough springs back if gently pressed with a finger.
  • Sprinkle the loaf with the sesame seeds. 
  • Bake in your toaster oven @ 400 deg for first 12-15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 300 and continue baking for about 20-25 minutes till they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath.
  • Serve warm.





Recipe sources:
http://www.food.com/recipe/moroccan-bread-233246
http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/breadandrice/r/Moroccan-Bread-With-Anise-And-Sesame-Seeds.htm

February 13, 2014

Strawberry 'Cheese' Cake

The classic raw cashew 'cheese' cake with strawberries.. a simple dessert that you can enjoy on Valentine's day or any other day :). I added cacao and coconut to the usual nutty crust since both of them goes well with the strawberry flavor. 
Add the red raspberry sauce and you have a perfect dessert for your valentine :)

 Happy Valentine's Day  



Crust:
  • Raw almonds - 1/2 cup
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Deglet noor dates - 10
  • Raw cacao powder - 1/4 cup
  • Himalayan salt - a pinch
  • Chia seeds - 2 Tbs


  • Start pulsing almonds and chia in a dry blender or food processor.
  • Once it resembles a coarse meal, add dates and pulse till dates are mashed and mixed well.
  • Add coconut, cacao powder and himalayan salt and continue till everything is mixed well and starts to come together like a dough.
  • Line a 6 inch cake pan with parchment paper and press the dough into it evenly and keep refrigerated while you prepare the filling.


Filling:
  • Raw cashews - 1 cup (soaked for 3-4 hours)
  • Raw honey - 1/4 cup
  • Virgin cold pressed coconut oil - 1/4 cup
  • Strawberries - 8-10 (large, fresh or frozen, thawed)



  • Add everything to a high speed blender and puree till nice and creamy.
  • Fill in prepared crust and keep covered in freezer for 4 hours.
  • Thaw at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.


Topping:
  • Raspberries - 1 cup
  • Coconut water - 1/4 cup
  • Raw honey - 1 Tbs

  • Blend everything to a smooth sauce. 
  • Add more coconut water if you want to make it thinner.
  • Drizzle over the cheesecake as needed.
  • Enjoy with your loved ones.


 Happy Valentine's Day 





February 12, 2014

Cherry Chia Pudding

Looking for a quick'n'healthy Valentine's day breakfast? Here is one.. both my husband and I love chia pudding and we all love cherries. Who does not like Cherries.. but it is very hard to find organic cherries in our area and even when we find them in season, they are so expensive !! That is when Costco comes as a savior. Our local Costco started selling organic frozen berries and organic frozen cherries. I know some people get skeptical when large corporate retailers start selling organic things. They say that when that happens, the organic standard itself can get diluted. I choose to disagree, if a lot of my friends can choose to believe conventional food and believe what food industry says, I can choose to believe USDA organic. It might not be perfect, but there is some level of standard. Also as more people demand organic, it will bring about a change for the better.

Now coming to the chia pudding, this can be put together the night before and left on your counter top, ready to go for your busy morning. You can also put this together in the morning, if you have not-so-busy mornings. You just need to set it aside for 30 minutes to an hour for the chia to soak it in.


  • Frozen pitted cherries - 2 cups
  • Coconut water - 1 cup
  • Handful of raisins 
  • Handful of raw cashews
  • Handful of raw walnuts
  • Handful of dried goji berries
  • Raw cacao powder - 2 Tbs
  • Pink himalayan salt - a pinch 
  • Chia seeds - 6 Tbs
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Well ripe banana - 3



  • Add cherries, raisins, nuts along with coconut water to a high speed blender and blend till pureed well.
  • Add salt and cacao powder and continue till mixed well. 
  • Transfer to a bowl, add chia seeds and goji berries and let them soak for a few hours or overnight. I just leave it on my countertop. 
  • When ready to serve, serve with sliced bananas and shredded coconut. 
  • Yummm! Enjoy !!

February 7, 2014

Quick Coconut Barfi



My son had to do a presentation on Indian cuisine as part of their geography class on the Indian subcontinent. His teacher suggested that it would be great if I could bring some fresh Indian food to the class for the students to sample. Since it was a morning class, I thought of making a sample breakfast, one from the south and one from the north. So I made Idli and tomato Chutney from South India, and stuffed Parathas from North India. I also wanted to make something from Kerala that represented the essence of Kerala, and what better item can represent Kerala better than a coconut :-). Also wanted to do a dessert and so decided to make coconut Barfi made with just 2 ingredients, and both ingredients based out of coconut. It is easy to make and does not deviate from the quick'n'healthy approach. Though it is sweet, it does not have any refined sugar, I used organic coconut palm sugar. Then, as always, I made mini-servings so that my son's friends don't get a sugar rush :-).





I did not make a large quantity. I thought kids being kids (and being picky eaters) might not enjoy everything that I sent, especially in a class room with middle-schoolers who might not be well exposed to ethnic cuisines. To my delight, I was quite surprised to get back a bunch of empty containers :-)

Now for the coconut Barfi:

Ingredients: 
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup 
  • Organic coconut palm sugar - 1/3 cup 
  • Filtered water - 2 Tbs
  • Cardamom - 3-4 (peeled and powdered) 

Method: 
  • Mix the sugar and water and start cooking in a sauce pan on medium heat.
  • Once sugar has completely melted and the liquid is of slightly syrup consistency (in a couple of minutes) add the coconut and cardamom powder. 
  • Continue cooking on low-medium heat stirring continuously. After about 4-5 minutes, you will see that everything sort of start to come together and is separating from the sauce pan.
  • You can remove from flame and keep stirring for 3-4 minutes more so that it does not stick to the pan.
  • There are multiple ways in which you can serve this. 
    1. Grease a shallow tray with coconut oil (or ghee) and spread the mix and press evenly. Keep aside for 20-30 minutes and cut into desired shapes and sizes. 
    2. Press them into ice molds or chocolate molds and pop them out after 20-30 minutes. 
    3. Just roll them into balls and keep aside for 20-30 minutes.
  • Whichever way you choose, make sure you do it while the mix is still warm,else it will not hold the shape. If you want to make larger quantity I would suggest that you do it in batches.



Variation:
Once you remove from flame, add 2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder for a cacao flavored coconut barfi.





February 5, 2014

Bisi Bele Baath w/ Adzuki Beans & Black Rice

Here is one more traditional South Indian recipe called Bisi Bele Baath, with a Quick'n'Heatlhy face-lift :-). Bisi Bele Baath translates to hot lentil rice. Instead of the usual rice-lentil combo, I am using black rice and adzuki beans, so that we get more whole grains and legumes. Also, just like any other recipe, I am splitting the cooking process into a few chunks so as to not overcook any ingredients. The first step, as always is soaking my rice and grains hours before cooking :-). 

Before I write the recipe, I want to provide some background on soaking grains. In the recent past, I have been reading a lot about soaking whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, and why is it important. Let us talk a little bit about that here: Initially, when we started learning about wholesome eating, we gradually made our switch from white rice to brown, red, black and other whole-grain varieties of rice. Also switched from white bread to wheat bread, and then to homemade whole-grain bread; and switched from just eating conventional grains to eating a variety of whole grains and seeds. The list goes on.., but the interesting (and frustrating at times too) thing about healthy eating is that the more you read and learn about healthy eating, the more conflicting facts you discover.



Most people agree on the fact that whole grains are more nutritious, whereas white or refined grains lack in nutrition and contain more starch and less fiber, making it not advisable to consume regularly. Some nutritionists though, point out that just like how humans and animals have self surviving agents like claws, nails, etc., plants also come with their own survival methods. Since all these grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are seeds of their plants, the plants will have a way to protect the seeds. Though they are good from the plant's perceptive, they may not be as well suitable for humans or animals to eat. As per nutritionists, these coatings can have elements that act as nutrition inhibitors. Some also say that these coatings around the husks cannot be digested well by some people. The same nutritionists suggest solutions for these problems as well by soaking, sprouting and fermenting. It seems that soaking can deactivate these nutrition inhibitors to some level and make them more suitable for digestion. Sprouting can further enhance this process and can get some of the good enzyme activity started too. Fermenting is also suggested in some cases to dissolve these agents and breakdown some of the proteins that can cause irritation to our guts.

Think about it, in our homes we used to do a lot of soaking, sprouting and fermenting, but modern gadgets like the pressure cooker and the powerful grinders/blenders made life easier. Slowly we forgot about those traditional methods, and turned to easy and instant ways of cooking.

Here is my take: I eat and serve a variety of whole grains, nuts, legumes and seeds in our family. I do soaking 90% of the time. If nothing, it improves the cooking time, and it seems to have improved digestibility and taste. I also do sprouting/fermenting depending on the dish. Ultimately, everyone should listen to their bodies and also do the best they can do.

Now coming to today's recipe:

Ingredients:
  • Black Rice - 3/4 cup (soaked for 12 to 24  hours)
  • Adzuki Beans -1/2 cup (soaked for 12-24 hours)
  • Tamarind - walnut sized ball (soaked in warm water for 30 minutes)
  • Cut vegetables - 2-3 cups 
  • Masala powder - 1 batch (recipe below)
  • Sea salt - as per taste 
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Ghee - 1 Tbs (optional)

Directions:
  • Cook black rice with 1 1/2 cups of water. Cook the rice just enough, water might still remain, that is okay.
  • Cook Adzuki beans with 2-3 cups of water. Just like rice, cook beans just enough. We will use the remaining water as base for the bisi bele bath.
  • Mash the tamarind well and pass thru a strainer or cheese cloth to get the extract out. 
  • Add the tamarind extract, masala powder  and 1 cup of bean cooking water to a blender and purée till very fine.
  • Start cooking the vegetables with remaining bean cooking water and turmeric powder.
  • Once vegetables are almost done, add the ground masala purée and salt. 
  • Adjust taste, if you are okay with the gravy, add the cooked beans and rice and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes on low flame.
  • Remove from flame and let it sit for 30 minutes before serving, so that all the flavors mingle well.
  • Serve optionally drizzled with ghee. Enjoy !!





For masala powder:
  • Cinnamon  -1 inch stick
  • Urad dal - 1 Tbs.
  • Channa dal - 1 Tbs
  • Fenugreek Seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Cardamom - 1-2
  • Cloves - 1-2
  • Grated coconut - 1/4 cup
  • Coriander - 3 tsp
  • Red chilly - 3-4

  • Dry roast channa dal and urad dal separately.
  • Dry roast coriander, cinnamon, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, cardamom, and cloves together.
  • Toast coconut slightly without burning.
  • Powder everything to a fine powder.

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February 3, 2014

Fig Goji Coconut Brittle Bites

Looking for ways to include goji berries into your diet? Here is an awesome way, make some brittle bites with goji berries, figs, coconut and cacao butter. It might seem unconventional to make brittles without any nuts, but then quick'n'healthy is all about simple & healthy cooking, and nothing conventional ;-)

Note: If you feel that cacao butter is expensive, you could replace cacao butter with coconut oil and you will get very close results.



Ingredients:
  • Goji Berries - 1/2 cup 
  • Dried Turkish figs - 10
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Chia seeds - 1/4 cup
  • Pink Himalayan salt - a pinch
  • Cacao butter  - 1/2 cup (shavings from raw cacao butter block)
  • Raisins/Goji berries - handful (optional)




Directions:
  • Chop figs roughly and add them to a dry blender jar or food processor along with goji berries, chia seeds and salt. Pulse till everything is coarsely ground. 
  • Add coconut and continue pulsing till coconut a incorporated well and everything starts to come together. 
  • Transfer to a bowl, add the raisins and whole goji berries, and mix well with hands, if you hold a handful of the mix, it should hold together without crumbling easily.
  • Melt the cacao butter over warm water and add it to the above mix. Spread evenly and mix well.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper and press the mixture evenly. 
  • Keep refrigerated for a couple of hours.
  • Take out and cut into any desired shapes and sizes. 




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February 2, 2014

Green Mango Guacamole

Indians love Mango, the king of fruits, and in any form :-) - green(unripe), ripe, raw, cooked, pureed, pickled, you name it. Our family is no exception. The health benefits of unripe green mangoes include, abundance of Vitamins, rich in fibre content, antioxidant properties, highly alkalizing and so on. Good reasons to include them in your diet when they are available. I try to include them a lot in Indian cooking and in some salads, dips and sauces outside of Indian cuisine as well. Here is good old guacamole given a facelift with the addition of crunchy green mango.

  • Avocado - 2 small
  • Green (unripe) mango - 1 medium
  • Yellow onion - 1/2 small
  • Tomato - 1/2 medium
  • Green chilly - 2 
  • Sea salt - as per taste 
  • Olive oil - 1 Tbs
  • Chopped cilantro - 1/4 cup

  • Peel and deseed mango, chop really fine.
  • Chop onion, tomato, and green chillies. Take the meat out of avocados. 
  • Reserve a half of the chopped mango and a couple of tablespoons of chopped onion.
  • Add everything else to a blender jar, and blend on low speed till avocado is mashed well and everything else is incorporated in. 
  • Transfer to a bowl, fold in the reserved onion, mango and chopped cilantro, drizzle olive oil.
  • Serve along with your favorite mexican wrap, salad, or just enjoy out of the bowl ;-)


   
    Note: If the green mango is not sour enough, use lemon juice to enhance the flavor.

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